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European Commission Fights Against Greenwashing

PARIS — With its Green Claims Directive proposal, the European Commission has taken a stance against greenwashing and misleading environmental claims made to consumers buying products spanning cosmetics to fashion and services.

“Under today’s proposal, consumers will have more clarity, stronger reassurance that when something is sold as green, it actually is green, and better-quality information to choose environment-friendly products and services,” the EC said in a statement released Wednesday.

It explained businesses would benefit, as well, since those truly trying to improve their products’ environmental sustainability would be more easily recognized and rewarded by consumers.

“This way, the proposal will help establish a level playing field when it comes to information about environmental performance of products,” the EC said.

The commission said a study it carried out in 2020 showed 53.5 percent of environmental claims that were examined in the European Union turned out to be vague, misleading or unfounded. Forty percent were unproven.

Today there is no common rule about what substantiates a true green claim about a product or service, which can lead to confusion among consumers.

The commission is proposing companies’ green claims will have to follow minimum norms regarding the way they back the claims and communicate them.

The proposal is homing in on explicit claims such as “T-shirt made of recycled plastic bottles” or “ocean friendly sunscreen.” It sets out, too, to try and stem the proliferation of labels.

The proposal excludes claims that are already covered by existing EU rules or will be covered by such upcoming rules.

The commission wants that before companies make green claims to consumers, those claims must be verified independently and proven with scientific evidence.

The proposal is meant to regulate environmental labels, of which there are more than 230 today.

The Green Claims Directive proposal will next be put before the European Parliament and Council for approval.